Peter's Blog

Fundamental Secular Frustrations

Written by Peter Johnston on .

RESPECT Assembly

I had intentions to write a blog post at the start of the week about the situation of school chaplaincy in Kirktonholme Primary School in East Kilbride that was reported in the press over the previous week. A combination of running out of time and that it was a situation unfolding on the other side of the country stayed my hand, though I was not alone in feeling that the repercussions would ripple beyond Lanarkshire. This indeed has proven to be the case and yesterday the Scottish Secular Society sent Freedom of Information Requests to every Scottish school enquiring about the chaplaincies in operation.

During the week I had provided information to the two schools in which I was part of the chaplaincy teams before moving North and in a meeting of the newly expanded chaplaincy team at Harlaw Academy I raised the issue too.

Solidarity

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Gillian after head shaving

I popped down to Ferryhill Community Centre this afternoon but just missed Gillian Anderson getting her hair shaved as a fund raiser for CLAN Cancer Support and as a statement of solidarity with those undergoing treatment. Kudos to Gillian for the efforts made and I do hope a good total was raised. She is pictured above after the deed was done. There was certainly a very positive and encouraging atmosphere down at the centre for the event.

It was good also to meet the manager, Maureen West. and some of the other staff at the Community Centre. I'm sure I will be seeing more of them over the months and years to come.

[Update: The total raised by Gillian was £1,806 - great job!]

Knowing one's limitations

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Teach yourself Doric

I did chuckle when I was handed this book that had been set aside from the Book 'n' Bakes sale on Saturday for me. After twelve years suffused in West coast Scots, the doric is coming back to me, but it has been a long time and there are some phrases when I definitely have to ask people to say it again to get the sense of what they are meaning.

Now I am just waiting for the perfect opportunity to use my practised, "Aat's her upistair hingin her waashin oot on my ropie."

 

'I do' or 'I don't'

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Wedding rings

A wee storm in a tea-cup brewed this week on Thursday when the BBC reported on a session of the Equal Opportunities Committee of the Scottish Parliament that was hearing from witnesses of a number of faith communities as a part of the discussion and consultation on the Marriage and Civil Parnership (Scotland) Bill. The full transcript of the meeting is available and makes for interesting reading if you are so inclined and have an hour free. The headline of the BBC article read: "Church of Scotland 'may stop conducting marriages'" with the subtitle "The Church of Scotland has questioned whether it could continue to offer marriages if same-sex legislation led to expensive court challenges."

Inevitably this led to a brief flurry of angst that the Kirk was retreating from one of the institutions of society that it still plays an important part in (albeit much less so now than in the past) and accusations that the representative, Rev Dr Alan Hamilton, of the Kirk's Legal Questions Committee was either not wise in his choice of words or failing to represent the Kirk properly. When I first read the headline I was shocked, as many of us would be, no doubt, but after reading the article I realised there was much more to this story than the headline promised. Such is indeed the case, but the real story is more interesting, if far less headline grabbing.

Deep canine/feline truths

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This really did make me smile today. So much truth, so simply captured.

 

Getting to grips

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Dream travelling

Dreamscapes

When I was a child for a time I had a recurring dream that was quite surreal (in that way dreams often are) and yet the imagery stuck with me over all the intervening years because of the powerful impact it had. I am sure it is telling of all kinds of subconscious issues, and probably if any of the Nominating Committee are reading this they are thinking to themselves, 'he should have told us about this before hand...'

I have tried above to capture the essence of the dream in an image. The dream always revolved around a sense of journeying, a sense of direction, and here if you think of those arrow straight roads through a place like Utah you get a sense of travelling along a beautifully clear landscape with the road stretching out in front of you. No surprises, and stunning views around you. It was enjoyable and effortless.

So far, so good.

Sharing the Story

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It has been a very busy week or two, filled with lots of meetings (and with lots more to come - I think five meetings were arranged after the service this morning) as I and we, as a congregation, get to know each other. I am still doing my best to remember the names of those I meet, but, I am also having to ask folks repeatedly to remind me of their names, lamenting inwardly that I don't have one of those memories for names that instantly grabs them and stores them. Those folks who can do that I richly envy...

Yesterday, as a wee interlude, Kathleen Hird, one of the team from the Sunday Club here at Ferryhill, and I travelled down to Wellington Church in Glasgow for a world first Spill the Beans Conference. We on the Spill the Beans Resource Team had been planning this for quite some time as a way to get some of the folks who have been using the Spill the Beans Resources together to share ideas, experiences and to enjoy some mutual support. As an opening conference we concentrated on the main driving force behind the resource materials that we have been writing: the importance of story.

Glimmers of light

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An excellent short video and article about the prevalence of depression in Palestine and the work of some young doctors, with external support, trying to develop the Palestine Neuroscience Initiative. With more than a third of Palestinians coping with depression, and in a culture where you do not talk about it, this truly is a glimmer of light. Kudos to Mohammad Herzallah for committing himself to helping his people and using the support available from elsewhere to make it happen and for providing the inspiration for others to bring the skills needed to help people in Palestine back to Palestine after being trained elsewhere, an important step towards preventing 'brain-drain'.

[Source: The Verge]

 

The future is spilled

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Video conferencing spillage

Today was an exciting day for the Spill the Beans team as we began a new stage of the ongoing experiment to create worship and age group resources for both ourselves and others. Through the magic of Skype we met both in Erskine and in Aberdeen with a Skype link between us allowing us very affordably (we did invest in a couple of proper conferencing webcams) to do videoconferencing so that we could all see and hear each other and work together on shared documents that also appeared on the large screens at each venue. Amazingly for a first attempt at doing this, everything worked very efficiently on the technical side. In the picture above you can see on the screen John Murning and Stewart Cutler in Erskine appearing alongside our working document in the manse of Ferryhill! It is like magic!

When you consider the travelling costs for those of us in the North-East to trek down to Glasgow, the costs of the equipment will be paid for within a meeting or two. However, it did flag up some interesting issues with communication that you don't realise until using different forms of communication like this.

Inductions, fractures and boxes

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Induction Cake

Today I felt like I started working properly as the new minister of Ferryhill Parish Church with many arrangements made over the phone for meetings, baptisms and weddings. There is no doubt that being inducted less than a week after moving is tight! We are almost all unpacked now, with the study now usable (we had to get the other rooms organised first), hence being able to blog once more. But I will be glad not to see another cardboard box for a loooong time!

It having been over 12 years since we last moved I had forgotten quite how much administration there is simply in changing one's address. Yesterday was spent entirely on organising those changes which I think I got about halfway through, with all the main things have been changed. This is not my favourite kind of task, it has to be said!

A Wee Care Parcel

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This evening was spent in the company of my friends from Calderside Chaplaincy Team who had excelled themselves in creating a Lanarkshire Care Parcel filled with reminders of Lanarkshire and of all our shared endeavours as a chaplaincy team. Thank you Karen and David!

I am going to miss working together with these wonderful folks a tremendous amount. It has been a lot of work, and sometimes we have taken on more than we can chew, but the laughter has always carried us through, and over the years we have done some truly innovative things together.

In the pictures you will see homage paid to the Bubblegum 'n' Fluff christmas programme we created for P6s (and have hosted around 1500 pupils over the past five years!!), the Easter Code for P7s, our RESPECT week at Calderside Academy for S1s, Cosy Café and of course some rather personal reminders... not the Buckfast, you understand!

A huge thank you to David Burt, Karen Harbison and Steve Younger, and for the opportunities over the years to also work in the team with Jonathan Fleming, Jen Robertson and Fiona Wilson. It has been a true privilege.

 

Bumper Spill the Beans Issue 9 Now Out

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Spill the Beans Issue 9

Timing is everything, and editing together Issue 9 of Spill the Beans in early July has been something of a challenge along with trying to get the house cleared and ready for our move to Aberdeen. The team did brilliantly to get most of the material prepared by the deadlines, so it is a great relief to get this all done now, a little ahead of schedule!

So, Issue 9 is now available for download, and it is a huge edition with almost 150 pages of ideas and resources. This issue takes us through the remainder of the long post-Pentecost season. Spanning 1 September to 24 November 2013, the issue is broken into two sections. In the first we concentrate on the gospel and for the second half we turn to the prophets. We also have included ideas for harvest and a script for a nativity service to get the creative juices for the advent season flowing ahead of time.

Inside you will find worship ideas and resources, including Bible notes, stories, prayers, reflections, music suggestions, and more, and for age groups you will find suggestions for activities, crafts, games and teen discussion resources.

Thank you, everyone!

Written by Peter Johnston on .

Leaving Social Musicians

This week has been a real roller coaster ride of emotions. Last night was the social farewell at the church and both Carolyn and I were so touched, a little overwhelmed, by the support of everyone there. Especially with the competition of Robbie Williams at Hampden last night too!

Everyone outdid themselves whether in the preparations for the tea, the musical performances (the performers pictured above) and, of course, Andy's speech (with help from Rev Karen Harbison who valiantly tried to defend the fitness requirements of modern ministry!). I soon realised how dangerous it is to have a photographic record in the form of a blog available to anyone!

My thanks go to everyone who gave towards the gift that was presented last night, it was very generous and will go towards something special to remind me of our time in Blantyre.

Praise in the Park

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This afternoon was the long-prepared for Picnic Praise event at the David Livingstone Centre. Despite some rather heavy clouds and the odd shower or two, around 300 folks from many different churches gathered for a picnic in the park, defyiong the weather to make the most of the afternoon, enjoying music from Fischy Music which had everyone up doing the actions, Victorian games and the old standard of many a Sunday School outing of days gone by... races! Including the three-legged race, always a worry when you have helped organise the event!

Alas I missed all the action within the park having rushed down immediately after the service to be on duty at the entrance to the park guiding cars and coaches in and out. Due to the stage positioning and superb PA system from Great Big Resources (thanks, guys!) I heard everything that was going on. It certainly sounded like everyone was having a good time.

Noah, Pi and Scoughall

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I'm still recovering energy levels after a wonderful weekend away with the young people of Cosy Café Sundays staying at Scoughall SU centre near North Berwick. Yet again we were blessed with superb weather. Only when chomping down on our fish n chips, pizza crunches, etc., sitting on the sea wall was it a little chilly. Needless to say, being so well prepared with all the technical equipment, I had brought neither sun screen nor a hat. Lobster time...

First Guitar God Gig

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Tonight was a very special night for my wee boy who joined David Burt and me for his first ever rock gig. What better way than to see Joe Satriani, guitar virtuoso, and one of my favourite rock musicians (heck, I even have a Satriani signature series guitar in my wee collection)? In the rather pleasant surroundings of the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow (with some very comfy seats - this is most definitely not rock 'n' roll as I remember it) we had great seats, just six rows back from the stage which meant we could see everything.

After a very varied set list with old and new tracks, the encore ended not on the usual thumping and crashing rock number but with the tender and beautiful tune "Rubina" which dates all the way back from the mid 1980s and Satriani's first album. The song is named after Joe's wife, Rubina. The band are on quite a long tour, so no wonder that Joe enjoys playing one of his early songs in tribute to his beloved. Touching.

Dreams, Hopes and the Big IF

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I spoke this morning about Lifepath during the service. Here are some more images from the latter half of the week plus some of the images of the IF logo that the pupils in small groups worked away at creating with whatever they could find (our very own Big IF event - Hyde Park eat your heart out!). They were a marvel and particularly poignant, which I mentioned during the sermon today, was the image of the IF logo made from the two sets of school ties of the pupils from John Ogilve High School and Calderside Academy. It was a powerful moment of working together across the boundaries that others might try and construct. The whole week, on which the sun shone powerfully, seemed to work extremely well. The pupils were engaged in all the activities and made the most of the opportunities, even lugging those kayaks and trunks far and wide across the grounds in the sweltering heat.

After clearing up at the end of the final day on Friday, those of us still remaining had a good debrief with the staff at the David Livingstone Centre. We talked about the different values that formed the basis of the event - namely, respectful, responsible, reliable, resilient - and how these had been explored in each area. We talked about the lasting value of this kind of event that really embeds (as I also mentioned in this morning's service) members of the christian community (not just us clergy in the role of school chaplains) within the wider community. And of course the question was asked of the chaplaincy team by the staff at David Livingstone Centre whether this was a one off event or whether it would be repeated in the future... [There's more...]

Livingstone Lifepath

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A quick blog post with a few images from the S2 event that the Chaplaincy Team and staff at the David Livingstone Centre are putting on this week. The week has been going brilliantly and due in no small part to the glorious weather we have had all week. Indeed this evening after three days in the sun I am positively glowing!

We have had volunteers helping us from local churches, from the centre itself, from the school, the campus cop, and lots of young folks and students who have been participating in the experience as leaders. The programme seems to be working very well with a super balance of different activities and styles. We were fortunate on Monday to start off with a relatively small group including ASN pupils which got us into the swing of things relatively easily. The last two days have been mixed days with pupils from both Calderside Academy and John Ogilvie High School with around 70 pupils each day. These have been very fun and it has been great to see the pupils over the course of the morning together move from sitting on either side of the pavilion where we first gather to working together in their teams.

Preparations and Separations

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Life feels very manic at the moment. Final preparations for the Lifepath week are underway, it begins next week when we will be hosting around 400 S2 pupils over the course of the week at the David Livingstone Centre, and I need to pick up four kayaks tomorrow from the canoe club! The video above is the final edit of the interview between Livingstone and Stanley that I mentioned earlier on this blog which we will be using each day. As you can see, Steve Younger made for a fabulous Livingstone!

That is not all. Preparations are going on for the Picnic Praise event later in June, for the formulation of a new Parish Grouping, for the Cosy Café Weekend Away, for a new issue of Spill the Beans, and so on... Busy enough. And then there is the preparation for a move, for getting the manse ready in Aberdeen, and the change of mental gear that will be necessary at that time. I must admit, at the moment it feels rather like hanging onto a roundabout that just keeps spinning faster! 

Something for everyone?

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General Assembly after vote

Monday was a momentous day at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and the results have been everywhere on the news this evening. The BBC ran with "Church of Scotland General Assembly votes to allow gay ministers" as their article title and also as the rolling headline on their TV news service ticker. The Scotsman has something similar, as does The Herald.

Between home commitments, I tried to watch as much of the debate as I could today. As I knew would be the case, and this I lament, nearly the full day was taken up with procedural discussions, while the debate over the substance of the options was condensed into less than two hours at the end of a long day. The result was that a last-minute option written by Rev Alan Hamilton (convenor of the Legal Questions Committee) and presented by Very Rev Albert Bogle, the Moderator until two days ago when Lorna Hood took over. In an aside, I thought Lorna moderated this debate extremely well and deserves credit and thanks for the way in which the proceedings took place. The communion service at the start of the day set the tone for the rest of the day. When everyone, as she had pointed out during that act of worship, has looked each other in the eye and shared the bread and wine with each other, it inevitably opens up a spirit of grace towards one another.

Without rehearsing the events of the day in their entirety, the net result was that neither of the proposals suggested by the Theological Commission were accepted despite the amendments made to them in the preceding hours. The option moved by Very Rev John Cairns was, as I thought it would be, withdrawn after a passionate speech by John about full equality. I am glad it was said, for what John spoke to was what many of us feel. However, like him, we also recognise that there must be space in an inclusive church for those who have a more 'traditionalist' view. This space was provided by the Theological Commission only in the 'revisionist' proposal which allowed for what became known as the 'mixed economy' where congregations could choose to opt out from accepting a minister living in a Civil Partnership. The premise of this proposal, however, was a 'revisionist' understanding for the Kirk. The traditionalist proposal from the Theological Commission afforded no such space, sadly, and thus it was perhaps inevitable that an alternative proposal from the 'traditionalists' within the Kirk that allowed space for difference would prove attractive to the General Assembly. This is where, despite all that hard work, the Theological Commission failed in fulfilling its remit to the General Assembly for they had not been able to find a 'mixed economy' that worked for all the members of the Commission.